From Fodor’s Royalty Watching, 1988

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of quotes from past guidebooks to celebrate 75 years of Fodor’s Travel.

The resilience of the Royal Family is one of the country’s most enduring and remarkable success stories—in many ways the most enduring and remarkable. The family’s value to Britain in terms of tourism alone is incalculable. Its importance to the British as a symbol of stability and steadfastness in an uncertain world is immense. Yet vast numbers of people, Britons and visitors alike, persist in thinking of the family as remote and aloof. The prevailing image is of distance and difference. They are seen almost exclusively as inhabitants of that curious, imaginary world that belongs only to the very rich and the very famous. The Queen is a woman on postage stamps, or safe inside a fabulously gilded coach, in ermine and diamond tiara, aloof, remote, and inaccessible.

Yet the plain fact of the matter is that the members of the Royal Family are real people leading real lives. Yes, in some ways of course they are different from the rest of us, and perhaps that’s a good thing, too, if only because the mystique of monarchy demands it. Yes, they do take part in gorgeous state occasions, occasions when the full dazzling pomp and magnificence of the monarch is unveiled. But behind this glittering façade are real people. Real people leading real lives.

This is not to say you might bump into Price Charles on the Tube. You certainly won’t find yourself standing behind the Duke of Edinburgh in a supermarket line. The accessibility of the Royal Family has its limits. But it is to say that with a little planning for a modest outlay anyone can attend the multitude of public events—polo matches, horse races, sailing regattas, fairs, and fetes—that the Royal family attend. And not only will you very often find them there in numbers, you’ll frequently find them there quite informally, mingling openly with the crowds. . .

If you are at an event where there is the possibility of the Royal Family mingling with the crowd . . . bear in mind the following tips:

  • Don’t stand near the press photographers. The royals will never make for the side of the road where they are standing.
  • Wear something bright or that will give the royal in question a topic of conversation. A silly hat, a club badge, or tie always gets them talking.
  • If you want to give them flowers, make sure your gift is small.
  • Stand as near as possible to the door or exit from which they will leave. During an unscheduled walkabout they won’t stay too long.

Learn more about London’s regal past and present